Students Resist 'Face to Face' Dirty Dancing Policy

Students must attend orientation, sign contract to be allowed at school dances.

Dec. 8, 2008— -- Prairie High School's new dance policies may seem at first to be right out of an '80s film on teen angst, but the principal says the ever-escalating trend of dirty dancing has got to stop.

That's why the Vancouver, Wash., school canceled the popular "Pack the Place" dance scheduled for January and told students they must attend an orientation and sign a contract on how to behave properly before they will be allowed at any future dances.

"We've been dealing with this for years, dirty dancing," Prairie High School Principal Jason Perrins told "Eight years ago, it was moshing."

The dirty dancing he's referring to is overly suggestive grinding, rubbing and groping between students, sometimes simulating sex acts. Perrins said he thinks of it as "intercourse dancing" and has heard a few complaints from female students.

"It's sexual harassment to every degree you could imagine," he said. "Is this something you'd do on street corners or a mall?"

The problem of increasingly sexualized dancing, known as freak dancing or grinding, is something school officials have been grappling with for some time now. There are reports from all corners of the country of dances being canceled and students walking out en masse after being disciplined -- one Washington state student told a local newspaper that during the last school year, chaperons were armed with flashlights to aim at dirty dancers.

And the Baltimore Sun reported that Centennial High School in Ellicott City, Md., recently revised its dance policy to include specific instructions such as "no forceful thrusting."

When All Else Fails

Perrins said the school has tried different tactics before, but nothing really stuck. They've held assemblies and put up banners on what's not appropriate. They even tried putting wristbands on the kids -- those who were dancing inappropriately had them cut off as a warning and were then asked to leave after a second offense.

Yet at every dance, school officials kick kids out, sometimes as many as two dozen. When nothing had changed at this fall's homecoming dance, Perrins said administrators decided to try something else.

Any student who wants to attend a school-sponsored dance must attend an orientation during a school prep period. Perrins said the orientation would be about 10 to 15 minutes long and include some directives from student government representatives on what's acceptable. Then the students and their parents must sign a contract agreeing to abide by school rules and that contract will remain on file for the rest of the year.

Any student kicked out of a dance from now on will not be allowed to attend future dances at the school for the remainder of the year.

While Perrins said he's gotten numerous e-mails of support from most parents, many of his students aren't thrilled. They've been calling him "old-fashioned."

Prairie High School Senior Irina Oleksiyenko, 18, said the dancing she's seen wasn't too sexy for her personally. Via e-mail, she told that she understands the principal's intentions and they are good, but the school should punish only those who don't obey the rules rather than including the kids who haven't done anything wrong.

"We all feel that we were treated as if we were bad kids. We hate that, especially seniors feel like our year has been ruined!" she wrote. "Compare to other schools, we believe that we are great kids and that we deserve to have any other dances without attend any of lessons."

Oleksiyenko also suggested that if enough kids decide not to attend the dances because of the new rules they'd have house parties instead, most likely with drugs and alcohol.

"To do the drugs and alcohol at the party is MORE awful thing to do than to do small dirty dance at the school," she said.

Student Resistance

Oleksiyenko is one of several student members of a new Facebook group dedicated to speaking out against the Prairie High School's new dance policies.

Sarah Rebello, a 16-year-old junior, said she does not plan to comply with any of the new rules.

"I as well as many other students will just not go to any of the dances, we'll have our own dances," she told via e-mail.

Senior Gavin Connor, 17, said he's still not sure what to make of the new rules, but the administration "has gone overboard."

"I agree that action needs to be taken because I personally don't enjoy seeing people looking like they're humping each other at the dances and after several warnings, but I think the administration has taken it way too far by punishing everyone at school, cancelling some of the dances, and making us take some asinine class about dancing appropriately," he wrote to via e-mail.

Both Oleksiyenko and Connor said they are concerned about the fate of their prom, scheduled for the spring.

"Prom is very special dance event of the year, why would anyone take that away?" Oleksiyenko questioned.

Been There, Done That

It has been nearly a year since dirty dancing sparked a heated debate among the students at John Glenn High School in Bay City, Mich., and their new principal, Beth Robb.

Robb told that her first dance at her new school was last fall's homecoming dance.

"I was appalled because I had never seen anything like this," she said.

Robb said she met with some student leaders and made announcement upon announcement that students who did not dance appropriately at the next event -- the Sadie Hawkins Dance in February of this year -- would be asked to leave.

Within 10 minutes of the music starting, Robb said she had to ask a student to leave, prompting a mass exodus of more than 200 students. A subsequent community forum with school leaders, parents and students made the situation worse, with parents angry that their children had been censored.

Robb said it wasn't until she held another meeting -- though far fewer attended -- where student senate representatives demonstrated what she calls "bumping and grinding" that parents understood the problem.

By the end of the year, the students began complying with Robb's directives and the prom went off without a hitch. The only reprimands that occurred at this year's homecoming dance, she said, were for freshman testing their limits.

"I think it's a trend across the nation, but I don't know where it came from," she said. "I'm sorry to hear it's becoming a problem for other high schools."

Learning the Rules

Perrins said he wants the Prairie High School students to have dances and to enjoy them. But students will have to earn future dances by behaving at them.

He's confident that the new measures will weed out the dirty dancers -- tickets will be denied to students who refuse the orientation and contract as well as those who have been kicked out of previous dances.

The school's guidelines as to what is and is not acceptable dancing are still being drafted, but Perrins provided with some examples of what is considered inappropriate from a list handed out to students in previous years.

They include:

Front to back/back to front grinding Front to back/back to front with hands below partner's hips Inappropriate fondling or touching Bending over in any position that is equal to or exceeds 90 degrees Ankle grabbing or hands on floor Front to front straddling

And, Perrins stressed, there is a rumor that students will be subjected to actual dance lessons -- that is not true.

"I'm not going to get up there and breakdance," he joked.

But they are going to have to tone it down.

"Teenagers are teenagers. They're exploring their bodies and they see things on the media," he said, adding that provocative music videos make that kind of dancing seem normal for public settings.

The Prairie High School dance motto for this year is one that has been used by other schools across the country -- "Face to Face and Leave Some Space."